For the next several installments, were going to take
an in-depth look at interviews and interviewing techniques.
While this subject doesnt fall exclusively in the area
of voice and diction, the complex psychological interactions
are very definitely a part of the work we do in the area of
performance. Its a special kind of performance to be
sure, but good interviewing techniques can literally make
or break your broadcast performance.
Over the course of the last two years alone, I have conducted
over 3,000 interviews on virtually every topic imaginable.
Some were wonderfully poignant and moving in and of themselves,
others were part of a bigger story or project. Many were duds,
either because of my lack of preparation or the subjects emotional
remoteness. Most were simply a means to an end: getting someone
else to say things that can be recorded and which will inform
and perhaps entertain audiences. There is a wide variety of
interviews: some that are intended simply to evoke an emotional
response; some to simply pass on information, others to illustrate
a deeper reality about a given story. Most, however, have
much in common with one another, and that is what we will
Interestingly, even though we will be discussing interviews
and interviewing technique in the context of journalistic
efforts, the rules are virtually identical for employment
or back ground interviews never intended for a wider audience.
The psychological forces that make a good employment interview
work just as well in a journalistic interview.
Most interviews entail a kind of seduction. This is not
meant in a sexual sense, though there can be a kind of erotic
tension in many good interviews. Rather, we think of interviews
as a way to win over a subject, to gain their confidence,
to earn their trust, and to convince them that it is safe
to reveal truths about themselves and their situation. Frankly,
the fundamental psychological goal of any interview is to
get the subject to like you, to be drawn to your sense of
empathy. This is as true interviewing a death row inmate as
it is a pop star. It implies that we are not simply getting
information from our subject, but in the larger sense, getting
an emotional insight into the person while they reveal the
information that is vital for your story.
This concept of willing seduction, of a cooperative choreography
underlies all the guidelines that will follow in the coming
I will also illustrate the guidelines from examples of interviews
that by most accounts would have to be considered successful,
in both gaining that emotional insight, and sharing information.
So, breathe deeply, and lets get started.
Next week: background research.